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AZ pushes harder into China with new joint venture

The Anglo-Swedish group creates a new pharmaceutical business with the Chinese FIIF

AZ

AstraZeneca has signed another deal to help it unlock the Chinese pharma market, setting up a new joint venture company to bring its drugs to market there more quickly.

The new JV - called Dizal Pharmaceutical - comes out of an agreement between AZ and the Chinese Future Industry Investment Fund (FIIF) run by private equity firm SDIC Fund Management and starts life with three undisclosed drugs from AZ’s preclinical pipeline.

Dizal will take over the operations of AZ’s Innovation Centre China (ICC) operation in Shanghai, with all the scientists employed where offered a place in the JV, and will be led by Dr. Xiaolin Zhang, the current ICC head. The company’s starting portfolio includes candidates from AZ’s oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic disease and respiratory, said AZ.

AZ has included growth in emerging markets - and particularly China - as a key strategic priority for several years, naming the country as one of its pillars for future growth when chief executive Pascal Soriot mounted his defence of the firm against an acquisition by Pfizer in 2014. Sales in emerging markets - led by China - rose 9% to $1.52bn in the third quarter.

Soriot said that the company has “a long-standing and strong commitment to China, which we are reinforcing today with this ground-breaking joint venture. By joining forces with the FIIF, we aim to accelerate the local discovery and development of innovative, affordable medicines for patients in China and around the world”.

The company made China a priority market for the roll-out of new lung cancer therapy Tagrisso (osimertinib), claiming approval for the EGFR inhibitor from the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) in March. At the time, it said that lung cancer is the most common form of cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in China, and that around 30-40% of Asian patients with NSCLC have the EGFR mutation at diagnosis.

Other investments by AZ in China - now the second-largest pharma market in the world at around $108bn last year - include a strategic alliance with contract research and manufacturing firm WuXi AppTec. The decision to invest in the country has dovetailed with recent efforts by the CFDA to do away with bureaucratic red-tape and bring the country’s regulatory systems into line with international standards, with the aim of accelerating access to new drugs.

Along with the Shanghai research centre, AZ also operates development, manufacturing and distribution facilities in Wuxi and Taizhou and employ around 11,000 people in China, and Asia-Pacific personnel account for around a third of its total workforce.

Article by
Phil Taylor

27th November 2017

From: Sales

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